Geothermal Pleasures in Myvatn- Part 2

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After spending a couple hours tramping through the lava fields of Leirhnjukur, we made our way to Hverir, which is literally just down the road from Krafla. It’s pretty hard to miss from the¬† Ring Road, as you can see the steam rising from the mud pits (and it’s very well marked with a sign and a full parking lot).

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Hverir is a beautiful, otherworldly¬† landscape of steam vents, bubbling mud pots and colorful mineral deposits. Hverir definitely reminds me of some of the wild, colorful areas in Rotorua, New Zealand. Like so many other natural attractions in Iceland, it is easy and free to visit. Sure, there are warning signs to avoid certain places, and the more dangerous areas are roped off, so you don’t accidentally wander into a boiling mud pit, and fall through the thin crust of the earth. But in general, it is up to every visitor to exercise caution and behave responsibly.

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The easiest way to see Hverir comprehensively is to just circumvent the area. There are a couple of vents with hot steam pouring out of it, and there are a lot of mud pits. Sure the mud looks like a nice pleasant mud bath, but it is important to remember that the mud is actually boiling.

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From Hverir, if you are so inclined, you can walk up the Namafjall ridge. The trail is clearly visible. If we hadn’t just gotten in our daily fitness goal of steps, I might have been tempted, but I begged off since there was still plenty of activity planned.

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Visiting Hverir usually takes about 30 minutes (assuming you don’t hike up Namafjall) for a nice, leisurely visit.

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Our first night in Myvatn ended with a beautiful sunset. These were probably the most beautiful sunsets we experienced while in Iceland. There were very few clouds in the sky, and what clouds there were, just added to the colorful drama as the sun set behind the lake and produced amazingly reflections.

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While we had other activities in the Myvatn area our second day, we came back shortly before sunset and figured this was a perfect opportunity to visit Hverfell. It is a large crater that sort of overlooks the villages around Myvatn (though it is somewhat easy to miss if you don’t know what you are looking for initially, since it sort of blends in with the surrounding mountains.

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We had some time to kill before visiting the Myvatn Nature Baths and it was just down the road. For a nature attraction that is so close to the road (and presumably a large tourist draw), it was surprising just how rutted the road was. But I drove slowly and we eventually made it to the parking lot at the base of the crater.

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From the road, you can see the path that ascends from the parking lot to the top of the crater (and circumvents the crater), and we read that the path was only 600 meters, which sounds pretty short. And yeah, the path is short, BUT, you will feel nearly every step up the path. It is a very steep path of somewhat loose gravel. I was huffing and puffing and took plenty of breaks, but we got up to the top.

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From the top of the crater, we had a very nice view of Myvatn and the surrounding area that was warmly lit by the setting sun. If you have the time and the energy, you can walk around the entire lip of the crater, which is about 3.2 kilometers. By this point, I didn’t have the energy and contented myself with enjoying the view of inside the crater and the landscape.

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After a long day of walking, relaxing in the warm, steamy pools of the Myvatn Nature Baths were just the perfect end to a great day. The Myvatn Nature Baths are North Iceland’s answer to Reykjavik’s Blue Lagoon, but it is a bit different experience. It is a smaller facility, owing to the fact that most of Iceland’s tourists seem to stay in and around the Reykjavik area, and far fewer venture afield. There are a couple of large, hot geothermal pools that overlook the lake.

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We figured we would stay until sunset and then go back to our hostel and fall fast asleep. However, thankfully we were dawdling a bit, and we got a small glimpse of the Northern Lights, which was surprising for a couple reasons. First off, it was only 2100 in the evening, and the conventional wisdom was that Northern Lights don’t make their appearance until after midnight. And secondly, the night was pretty clouded up, and fairly clear nights are needed to see the Lights. However, the bright, green auroras we did see were even visible through the clouds. We didn’t even notice them at first, but we knew something was up when we heard the cheers of joy from the other persons in the baths. The display didn’t last for long, but we did get to see just teasing hints of what was probably visible under the clouds. If only the night had been clearer, because it would have been an amazing experience to watch the Northern Lights dance across the sky while we stayed nice and warm in the outdoor geothermal baths.

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This was my second trip to Myvatn, and it was a very enjoyable experience. Most of the geothermal sites are easily accessible in the winter (though again, some of the roads may not be plowed if it snows), so Myvatn can be visited year round. Though from what I have read, there are swarms of tourists here in the summer, so you might want to wait until winter, spring or fall. But with Myvatn just off the Ring Road that circumvents Iceland, it is as an easy drive. If you like beautiful nature and strange geothermal sites, this is a perfect place to visit.

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Chena Hot Springs Resort Activities


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As I mentioned in a previous blog post, while there are a lot of activities available at the Chena Hot Springs Resort, most of the activities are at your own pace, with the occasional scheduled tour. The first activity we did was a tour of the Aurora Ice Museum (a later blog post), but we also did some hiking of the grounds, and a dogsled ride. There were also some local reindeer kept on site, and a small ice skating pond, though it didn’t seem frozen enough to actually skate on.

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Nature trails abound on the resort, and they are kept fairly walkable during the winter, which I honestly didn’t expect, but was grateful for. While walking around, it was amazing to me how pristine the snow was, and how frozen it was. I often marveled that it was like being in the Winter Wonderland of Narnia (before those meddling Pevensie children arrived and brought spring with them). I live in a more temperate area, so even when it does snow, the temperature would not drop long enough for the snow to freeze, nor to remain on the branches, plus what snow does remain would often get slushy and dirty. But somehow, the snow at Chena Hot Springs Resort remained dazzling white. The white snow, combined with the bluish light, or salmon when the sun rose high enough, was a beautiful artistic palette.

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I had also hadn’t often seen snow that was so white and clean, even when people tramped all over it. It was refreshing to experience such amazing cold, but it wasn’t as obvious. The cold is a very dry cold, even with the wind, and it was easy for me to pile on multiple layers of clothes to stay warm and active outdoors.

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Mom and I also had the chance to enjoy a dogsled ride around a set track. The ride was about 1.5 miles, so about 10 minutes. The resort keeps dozens of sled dogs for the guests, trained dogs, but not as highly trained or skilled to be elite racing dogs. All the dogs were very energetic, and just seemed to love to run.

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But one of the most relaxing pursuits at the resort is to enjoy the natural hot spring pool. The resort keeps a chlorinated indoor pool open to families, but they also have an outdoor rock pool for adults only. The pool is natural and untreated and very pleasantly warm, with a regular infusion of geothermally heated water. It reminded me of similar pools from New Zealand and Iceland. The pool is open from 7 am-midnight, so there are hours and hours to enjoy the pool if you so desired. The pool was great during the day, but it was a special treat at night, when it was dark, the moon was out and the sky was clear and cold. My body stayed wonderfully warm under the surface, and bracingly cold above the surface. Stay in the pool long enough, and your wet hair will literally start to freeze and turn white with the accumulation of ice crystals. I felt so relaxed, so languid after the pool, and it was a perfect complement to the extremely cold winter weather.

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While there plenty of activities at the resort, you could also choose to stay indoors and relax if you so desired. Basically there is something for everybody who enjoys outdoor or relaxing indoor activities at Chena Hot Springs Resort.

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